Substance abuse issues like alcoholism and drug abuse are contributing factors in many divorces. When a couple has children, divorce often means the parent who’s struggling with alcohol and/or drugs gets only minimal custody or visitation rights.
That doesn’t have to be the way it is for the rest of your children’s formative years. If you’re a parent in recovery, you can take steps to seek more time with your children. However, it’s not going to happen quickly, and you’re going to have to work to show that you’re committed to your sobriety and your children’s well-being.
If you’re seeking greater custody or visitation rights that your co-parent isn’t ready to agree to yet, you’ll need to convince a judge to grant you more time or freedom when it comes to visitation. What do judges look at? Here are some things you can expect:
A commitment to recovery
If you voluntarily entered a rehabilitation program or joined a 12-step program and have remained committed to your sobriety for some time, that’s a good start. Parents who don’t acknowledge that they have a problem or go to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings just to get the chips and don’t appear to have changed their lifestyle aren’t going to impress a judge.
The longer you’ve been sober, the greater your chances are of gaining more access to your children. There’s no set timetable. However, you’re probably not going to come out of a 90-day program and get 50-50 custody of your kids. It takes time to rebuild trust – particularly if you harmed your spouse or kids while you were drinking or using.
Any abusive or harmful behavior
If you have a history of violence, verbal abuse or neglect involving your spouse and/or children -– particularly if any of those incidents were documented by police or other authorities –- it’s going to take longer to gain custody. A commitment to recovery is essential, but a judge is going to have to see that those harmful behaviors are also behind you.
As you become more comfortable in your sobriety, it’s only natural to want to make up for lost time with your kids and to show that you can be a good parent. However, it’s also essential to recognize that it will take longer than you’d like. Remember that in addition to getting the trust of a judge, you need to regain your children and co-parent’s trust.